New OSHA Employee Vaccination Standards

Restaurants can finally reopen for good this summer, and they’re excited for the chance. However, certain issues still present obstacles. For example, not every restaurant employee has been vaccinated yet. As front-facing workers, they were eligible early on, and now most adults who want the vaccine have an appointment. OSHA recently released new guidelines about employees, their vaccination status and what that means for life at your restaurant.

Keeping Track of Workers

Many of your staff may not have gotten vaccinated yet for a variety of reasons. Whether by choice, lack of time or lack or transportation, approximately 35% of adults still don’t have the vaccine. OSHA now wants restaurants to track which staff members are vaccinated and unvaccinated, which determines which guidelines to follow.

For example, if everyone on staff is vaccinated, then OSHA approves reverting back to old workplace safety standards. As long as the state and local guidelines don’t contradict it, you can essentially operate as you did pre-pandemic (though likely with a few new tricks). That means no means no masks nor social distance requirements from coworkers or customers. Even if not every employee is vaccinated, you can still apply these rules for clusters of staff that are inoculated, provided they’re fully separate from potential carriers.

Whether by choice, happenstance or medical reason, not everyone will get vaccinated soon. If this is the case for your restaurant, OSHA recommends keeping all the measures you had in the height of the pandemic like masks, social distance, temperature checks on arrival and quarantine for those exhibiting symptoms. Consider giving out disposable face masks to encourage unruffled compliance. Further reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 by not scheduling too many unvaccinated workers for the same shift. Also give out PTO so people can take time to get vaccinated.

OSHA Pushes for Safety

More and more people get vaccinated every day. Still, OSHA suggests that you enforce face masks for customers, even if local ordinances don’t demand it. This will still reduce potential transmission so your restaurant has a smooth, unhindered recovery.

As far as enforcement, that remains up to restaurants. New York developed an app where people can store vaccine passports to prove, backed by state records, that they’re inoculated. This has more than 2M downloads already. Still, it’s hardly commonplace; restaurants will largely rely on their own discernment to create a safe workplace.

The more states push for adequate reopening, and the more people who get vaccinated, the safer it will become to lose more pandemic restrictions over time. Until then, keep an eye on OSHA regulations as they come out, and expect that COVID-19 isn’t over yet. Meanwhile, equip your restaurant with the tools it needs for success, as traffic rises with the onset of summer.

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